The formula was developed by Harvard University mathematicians who've studied 1,200 years of the English language's evolution -- from "Beowulf" to "Canterbury Tales" to "Harry Potter."
Professor Martin Nowak, Erez Lieberman, Jean-Baptiste Michel, and colleagues in Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics view linguistic development as essentially an evolutionary scheme: Just as genes and organisms undergo natural selection, words -- specifically, irregular verbs that do not take an "-ed" ending in the past tense -- are subject to powerful pressure to "regularize" as the language develops.
"Mathematical analysis of this linguistic evolution reveals that irregular verb conjugations behave in an extremely regular way -- one that can yield predictions and insights into the future stages of a verb's evolutionary trajectory," said Lieberman, a graduate student in applied mathematics. "We measured something no one really thought could be measured, and got a striking and beautiful result."
The study is detailed in the current issue of the journal Nature.
Yosemite climber falls 30 feet, suffers major injuries
Moore to attend retreat in to avoid Kutcher's wedding